How to teach Kids Magic: The Gathering



The first time I read about Dana Fisher was in 2017, when she fell one win short of reaching Day 2 in GP Las Vegas at the age of 6. Her father introduced her to Magic at the tender age of three and a half.

Being a family guy, and Magic being my all-time favorite game, I always had a vision of playing Magic with my kids one day. I never thought that it would be possible to teach somebody Magic at the age of three and a half. But hey, I love challenges.

The most difficult part would be having a daughter. Luckily, I’d already achieved that goal five years ago ;-)

The Five Colors of Magic

As Ava turned 4, she had good number sense, which is the foundation for learning the game. Thanks to Mark Rosewater’s Drive to Work Podcast #415: Teaching, I already knew what the first steps were to teaching Magic. I introduced Ava to the Magic world and the five colors by saying that she could choose to be a hot-headed fire mage summoning goblins and dragons, a blue mage with faeries and drakes, a white mage with soldiers and angels or a green mage with dinosaurs and spiders. I left black out of the game, because I didn’t find it very appropriate for a 4-year-old, but please feel free to play with it if you think it fits your kids.

She chose to be a blue mage and I started to build two decks: a blue one for her and a green one for me.

Blue DeckGreen Deck
3x Faerie Miscreant
3x Curio Vendor
3x Maritime Guard
3x Ancient Crab
3x Wind Drake
2x Send to Sleep
13x Island
3x Grizzly Bears
3x Vastwood Gorger
3x Hitchclaw Recluse
3x Orazca Frillback
3x Nessian Courser
2x Aerial Volley
13x Forest

The two main challenges with teaching Magic to a 4-year-old are that they usually can’t read, and the length of time they’re able to focus on a game is way shorter than if they were an adult. So it’s important to be flexible with the rules and change whatever is needed to tailor the game to the age of the players.

Be Flexible with the rules

The lack of reading creates the need to memorize what every card does just by looking at the art. To keep it as simple as possible, I only used creatures without any abilities other than flying, which is clearly visible if the creature has wings and is flying in the artwork.

We changed the ability of the Faerie Miscreant to drawing a card when the creature enters the battlefield, to make it simpler. It was easy to remember because there is a book in the artwork.

Faerie Miscreant

With spells it got a little bit more complicated. Having no power and toughness, it is clear that a spell is not a creature, but what will happen when the spell is cast needs to be very clear in the art. A great example is Send to Sleep. When I asked my daughter what was happening on the picture, it was clear to her that there was a mage who puts two guys to sleep. So, when she cast the spell and I tapped two of my creatures, she could easily remember the effect for the following games.

Send to sleep

For the first period, we only used sorceries. Even if the card was an instant, we always played the cards like sorceries during the player's main phase.

We even simplified the phases. Here’s an overview how we played the steps of each turn.

  1. Untap
  2. Draw a card
  3. Play a land if you have one in your hand
  4. Cast creatures and spells
  5. Attack

Consider your child's preferences

We shortened the game by reducing the life points to 10 and during the first game I realized that she didn’t like losing something. So instead of winning by reducing the life of the other player to 10, you win by collecting 10 points. I used small plastic crystals from her HABA game Unicorn Glitterluck to represent the points. So instead of dealing damage, the creatures would collect crystals and bring them back.

After finally formulating the right version to play with Ava, we both enjoy every session, and we can now increase the complexity and game length step by step.

I hope you liked this article as much as I enjoyed the journey of teaching my little daughter how to play Magic. What you should take with you is that the rules of the game can be adapted to your kids’ needs. Especially in the case of Magic, we see what great things can happen if you implement some variations to the rules… whether that’s a little girl finding her passion for a competitive TCG, or the discovery of a completely new way to play the game, like Commander.

Until next time… keep playing!

Babak


Editor's note: This post is a guest entry by former Magic: The Gathering Pro Player and Ultimate Guard Member Babak Rau, who is now working as Account Strategist at Google.

Author: Ultimate Guard Team

All across the globe, the members of the Ultimate Guard team follow their passion for gaming and collectibles. In our blog, we will share personal insights, background stories about our products and sneak peaks behind the scenes of Ultimate Guard.